Need new knives. Leaning Japanese

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by jameelmoses, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    Background: I've worked in the industry most of my life and did everything from Dishwasher to server to GM. I'm out now, but I still love to cook at home. My wife is an aspiring home cook. We plan on taking lessons together soon as a bonding experience and to teach her some knife skills.

    After lurking around here for a few days scouring the forums, I decided to register and pose the already asked question. Especially after seeing BDL's awesome, detailed responses.

    I went to BB&B today and handled every chef knife they had and am set on Japanese. I've always used Western in the past, but I was intrigued and loved it. My wife and I both have small hands and wrists and the Japanese immediately felt like an extension of the arm.

    I will say, although I'm aware the steel quality isn't the greatest, that the Calphalon Katana felt the best in my hand as far as handles go. The tapered bolster felt very natural in my hand.

    The issue I have is that I'm left handed and my wife is right handed. Am I out of luck in the a Japanese market?

    Budget isn't a concern, although I'm not gong to be buying a $500 chef. Focus is on the chef knife, but will be purchasing a petty (maybe a paring), utility (leaning towards serrated although I'd like opinions here) and steel. Will likely utilize a sharpening service until I practice enough on some cheap knives.
     
  2. mike9

    mike9

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    If you are used to Western Randy from HHH is selling some of the last production 240 gyutos at a very nice price of $210 + shipping ($10 conus).  These are excellent knives and one of my "go to" blades - very nimble for their size and the grind and heat treat is excellent.  The handle is almost a hybrid wa/yo so you get that "extension of the arm" feeling.

      http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/s...ast-of-the-240-s-SALE!!!!?p=294917#post294917

     
  3. chrismit

    chrismit

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    Couple things, as far as the lefty righty thing goes I'm not sure if you are referring to the blade or the handle. Don't worry about the blade unless you are looking at single bevel knives (which I will srongly recommend against as this is your first j knife). If there is asymmetry in the way it's sharpened you can either sharpen it out or use it as is and likely not notice any difference. There are some double bevel knives that have a fairly asymmetric grind that you may want to stay away from but that bridge can be crossed if the time comes. As for handle, pretty much don't get a d shaped handle if you are concerned. Some people find the opposite d handle doesn't bother them some do, another option is to sand it down. If you purchase western handle shouldn't make a difference.
    The calphalon katana is not a bad knife, my daughter has a short santoku. I don't mind the handle, it gets reasonably sharp (kind of a pain to deburr). If you decide to go this route you should really search because a retail prices they are definitely overpriced. We picked hers up at an outlet for a stupid low price. There are going to be many knives for the money that will be better value but its all in what you like.
    If you and you wife are going to be cooking together I might suggest 2 chef/prep knives. When you go to your classes you will want your own knives and if you are both prepping likely will want the same. Before making any recommendations it would be helpful to have a max budget. I know you said money is not a concern but you also indicated you would not be purchasing a 500 chef knife, of which there are many. Also when considering budget it is important to know if that number encompasses peripherals as well (such as sharpening gear, board etc). I know there is a lot of information to absorb but the end result is more than worth it.
     
  4. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    I'm sure they are great knives, but I'd like to purchase from a reputable brand with comparative reviews and warranties/support.
     
  5. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    For righty/lefty, I'm referring to both. For example, the Shun handles are specifically lefty or righty, as well as the blade. From the research I've done, I was under the impression that almost all J knives are beveled 70/30 with a righty lean. I'm not sure sharpening the handedness away from an edge is something I'm interested in, and I'm definitely not interested in sanding down handles.

    You say many knives will be better for the money, do you have anything specific in mind?

    We both love to cook, but due to us having toddler twins, we seldom, if ever, cook together. I'm going to get one of each for now, and if and when we do the cooking class, I will purchase more if needed.

    As far as budget goes, I'm aware that $500 knives are out there, as well as $10,000 knives. I want a great quality knife that's going to last a long time (possibly even lifetime). I have the money, but don't have the desire to spend that much per knife. Assume no budget, but shopping for value. For example, for chef, paring/petty, utility, steel, etc. I don't have a total budget in mind; I just want to spend my money intelligently. I simply don't need a $500 knife.
     
  6. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    The issue is my wife is right handed. Any good symmetrical J knives out there?
     
  7. lennyd

    lennyd

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    Have to totally agree with each of you having your own chefs (main, most often used etc) knife. It may complicate things a bit initially, but will make life much easier later on, and if your choices are different allow for comparison.

    Though personally I prefer not to buy a knife (or other products) from a "brand" name seller who relies on their name recognition to sell their products at a price beyond their value (or to be blunt I don't enjoy being duped by buying a brand and receiving an inferior product that was made in China or ? based solely on production costs etc) I know I can get even the cheapest POS sharp, but also have to recommend you explore the many options since you have professional experience, and a budget that will allow you a seriously improved experience and quality product.

    I know it's not easy buying something sight unseen and not handling it etc, but if you require to hold the knife in your hand, and have a local brick and mortar store near by your eliminating a while lot of great choices.

    I guess if you are blessed with being close to one of the few specialty knife retailers that doesn't apply, but the rest of us have had to take a chance and wait till it arrives to check it out.

    That was one of the biggest things for me when I first got into Japanese knives, and the thread linked in my signature will allow you to read about just how hard or was for me to make a decision and place the order lol.

    Being you are getting so many very different suggestions I think it may be helpful to share both your comforts from your time in the business and also your thoughts on what you would like in your first Japanese knife, and figure same for your wife so you can get suggestions better tuned for your needs.

    Also consider that once you adapt to the added performance but also very different attributes of your new knife you may find you end up preferring a more Japanese style than anything western (like I did).

    If budget allowed I would would have very few western handled knives, and mostly light weight Wa ones.

    That's definitely not something I thought possible a few years back. Things do change.

    Two last things are to utilize the old posts on the topic of first or new knife through the search function, and expect to learn how to sharpen as most of the professional sharpeners (maybe most) will do me harm than good and unless your lucky or utilize one of the small ones that started as a japanense knife enthusiast and actually has the proper knowledge skills, tools and willingness to do lots of work cheap your not likely to get good results.
     
  8. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    Thanks for the advice guys.

    I ended up pulling the trigger today. We had a local store that had a much larger J knife selection than BB&B, and I was able to test out several other knives. My wife and I immediately fell in love with the Yaxell Gou series. I ended up getting the chef knife for myself and the santoku for her because she is comfortable with them already and enjoys their size over the chef. I added in a 5-inch utility to boot.

    Based on your suggestion, I'm going to learn to sharpen myself. I hope this doesn't come across as lazy, but can you point me to any specific resources on the subject? I have 14-month-old twin boys and I operate a web & graphic design business in addition to my full-time job, so time is pretty limited for me to go rooting around. Especially with the varying levels of knowledge on the subject.

    Also, any recommendations for good steel and sharpeners?

    Thanks again for the help!
     
  9. chrismit

    chrismit

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    Looks like the knife you purchased is made of sg2 and fairly hard. It probably should hold an edge for a good amount of time with home use. I would get a ceramic hone if you are looking to "steel" the knife, best bet is probably the idahone from chef knives to go. The Mac black is a good choice as well. It is important you use good technique with your honing as that is a pretty hard knife and you dontnwantnto chip it. Start by reading this http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551. Light pressure is your friend. As far as sharpening goes based on your comments and limited budget constraints I would recommend the edge pro system. Short learning curve compared to free hand, fairly easy to get excellent results. It will get your knives as sharp as you could need. Check cktg for options. If you do decide to learn freehand start with the tutorials on the cktg website and these videos from japanese knife imports http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/media-and-news-center/. Jon's series is excellent, this is what I primarily used when starting freehand.
     
  10. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    Thanks, Chrismit!

    I actually was looking at the MAC Black the other day. Would you recommend the Idahone over it? I wasn't able to find the HandAmerican Borosilicate rod anywhere, including CKtG where their website said they stock.
     
  11. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    I will likely go with the edge pro system due to it's apparent dummy-proof fixed angle ability. Which particular system would you recommend?

    Just in case, you definitely wouldn't recommend using the Yaxell sharpener "specifically made" for the series?
     
  12. chrismit

    chrismit

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    The idahone is just as good as the Mac and cheaper I think. Not sure what sizes they come in but get one at least 10 in long in case u get bigger knives in the future. I don't think the handamerican is being sold anymore but i could be wrong.
     
  13. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    You can get the Idahone in a 12 inch length.
     
  14. lennyd

    lennyd

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    That looks interesting, and I do like the stone rollers idea, but the 400 grit sounds very coarse (I use 1000 as a start stone when sharpening and end as high as 6k depending on the knife).
     
  15. lennyd

    lennyd

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    One point to remember on sharpening free hand is that it is much more intimidating than it is difficult.

    Honestly it's really not that hard at all once you get down the basics, and I have to believe the learning process can't be all that much longer than figuring out a jig system.

    I would love for my knives to stay sharp forever, but even if that was possible I would miss the connection and feeling of accomplishment that comes from making your knives scary sharp with your own hands.

    One thing to keep in mind no matter which way you go with sharpening the steel In most knives like yours is going to be very different than the popular Western brands and will be very different to sharpen.

    Though i find the harder better steels more enjoyable to work with over the softer steels for many reasons there are many who get frustrated because they feel it's harder to remove material etc. But the improved results and performance are the end result.
     
  16. lennyd

    lennyd

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    Well said.

    I have been slowly bringing an older well abused Tojiro sujihiki back to life, and after grinding away on the most coarse whet stone i have to remove the countless chips and chunks in the edge I decided that I would move well below the 1000 and even use my old Norton oil stone for thinning.

    It's just a lot of steel to remove, and lots of work etc si I totally can understand why some would not look forward to doing a lot of thinning.

    But it has to be done for good results.
     
  17. chrismit

    chrismit

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    I agree the edge pro may have some limitations but I would think you can thin a knife with it. Also, if you are in the us there are options for sending your knife out for thinning. It's ideal to thin as you go with sharpening but its not the end of the world if you don't. In addition, with the amount of sharpening you are likely to be doing thinning wont likely be needed all that often. If you have the time and patience to learn freehand then go for it. Based on your comments about kids, work etc I got the sense time is a luxury you may not have a lot of. The edge pro is an excellent system and will keep your knives exceptionally sharp. It is not hard to learn from all accounts (full disclosure I have not used it but I have seen enough comments from people I trust about it) and it is not a cheap system. You indicated your budget was not limited so cost did not seem to be the deciding factor. If you have questions about the system go to the cktg website and enter the forum area, there is a section on the edge pro. If you have the funds go for the shapton or Chosera set, both sets of stones are excellent. If you decide to go freehand you can get started for much less. Something like a 1k and 5k would get you started. I would recommend picking up a cheaper knife to work with, something carbon if possible as it will be the easiest to sharpen. Either way you go you will be able to get excellent results, with freehand just takes more practice to get there
     
  18. lennyd

    lennyd

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    Benuser every time I see an illustration of an edge line that one I realize why I prefer thinner blades.

    They still will need thinning, but so much less to remove.


    I think the idea of free hand sharpening both scares away some possible converts, and is also very misunderstood by noobs etc and this may keep many from enjoying the superior quality and performance we do etc.

    Personally I have zero issues with the idea of using a "system" for sharpening, and know they have their good and bad points just like anything else, but my point or concern is that when someone comes here (often frustrated with their current knives) and then either becomes intimidated by the idea of freehand or scared off by the expense of some of the better jig systems and just continues with their blunt and heavy old knives.

    That said I can't emphasize enough the unless you have a medical condition that will not allow you to move a piece of steel across a stone fluidly at a similar angle multiple times the there is no reason you can't sharpen your knives, and after the initial learning curve which is part of anything new etc it becomes more of a positive than a negative.

    I know there are those who will never likely do it, and the edge pro is one of the top choices, and for others it will be something they send out.

    Just as long as the idea of sharpening doesn't keep anyone from experiencing J knives (plus sharpening is part of the problems with most all knives anyhow).
     
  19. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

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    So would you recommend getting some stones and learning to freehand over the Edge Pro then? Or would the Edge Pro be fine for home use?

    My wife and I split the cooking and she will be using her Yaxell Gou 101 Santoku, and I will be using the Gyuto. I will be making about 4-5 meals a week, which usually involves meat (no cutting bones ;) ), fresh veggies, etc. Also, I'm cooking for myself and my wife and our two toddlers, so not exactly a great deal of quantity either. I entertain seldomly, maybe a small group once a month or so. With this amount of use, how worried do I need to be about thinning?

    By the way, the Gyuto arrived yesterday so I chopped a potato. And then some garlic. And then a kiwi. And then an onion. Then my wife made me stop. I literally wanted to cut up everything in my kitchen. So glad I made the jump to J knives, and I'm incredibly happy with my Yaxell so far, albeit in limited use.

    The potato in the picture is after about 15 seconds. Others' reviews on the sharp factory edge were no exaggeration. It was like butter.

    Man is it a beautiful knife.

     
  20. chrismit

    chrismit

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    The question of edge pro vs freehand is not one someone else can answer for you. Freehand takes longer to learn. if you don't practice on a regular basis at the start it will take a while because you are not building the muscle memory necessary. Lenny d made good points in that it is not rocket science and some post make it seem like a skill you need to climb the Himalayas to achieve. If you are willing to put the time in, practice on a lesser but still quality knife freehand will be more rewarding. I freehand and enjoy it. Some people try to make the edge pro seem like a lesser option. For 99% of people it is not. It is more expensive at the start and as you progress in sharpening there may be some limitations. Most people will never experience these. Make your decision based on a realistic amount of time you can commit. If you can put 45 min or so per week you will be a competent sharpener in probably 3 months or so. The key is the consistent commitment. Edge pro might take an hour or two of practice before you are getting decent edges. These numbers are not gospel, some will take less time some more. The point is freehand is not immediate gratification.